He might be currently out of contention for a call to the Indian team, he might have struggled with injuries and bad form in the recent past but this man, who was once called the next Kapil Dev, has come back to take centre stage in the IPL this season. Irfan Pathan, the once promising all-round talent, is still rated highly as he prepares for a stint with Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 7.
Pathan was with Kings XI Punjab for the first three seasons and was the franchise's leading wicket taker. After which, he had an injury to tend to and was not available for a full season of domestic cricket. But the Delhi Daredevils showed trust in the left-hander as they bought him for a whopping $1.8 million in the 2011 IPL auction. Pathan was part of Delhi for the next two years. And he has now been bought by Hyderabad for ₹2.4 crore .
After having made his debut in 2003 in Australia, Pathan has been through several comebacks. His career dipped in 2006 and he was out of both the Test and ODI sides. Experts opine that the Baroda prince lost his pace, focussing on his batting. He was recalled for the ICC World T20 in South Africa in September 2007 which India won. He was awarded the man-of-the-match against Pakistan.
Pathan then made it to a couple of home series and an away tour but was eventually left out of the Indian squad throughout 2009. Another comeback in 2012 only saw him drift further away, thanks to a back injury. If the IPL goes well, and he is called back to the Indian team, Pathan will probably be called the comeback king of Indian Cricket.
"It is never easy when you comeback from a break, but God has been kind," Pathan told the official IPL website. "Things have been working out with the work I put in with my experience and with the way things have been since I am fit now.
"I am trying to make sure that I work and concentrate on my good areas. I am making sure that I keep the basics right, like the position and the basic action. I am actually trying to make sure that I make good use of the new ball; that's very important."
When asked what was the most challenging job in a comeback, Pathan said it was the mental strength.
"First of all, you need to be mentally strong when you come back from a break. Because you have to go through the process all over again; you have to put in the hard yards to make sure you work from zero. After a five-month layoff due to injury, the first few sessions of bowling are hard work and you don't know what you are doing; you have to go through that process again. Mostly what takes the toll is the mental side of it."
Though Pathan lost pace over the years, swing has always been his strength. The one that moves in to the right-hander is still feared, and he has also added a lot many variations to his bowling attack.
"I had to make a few changes in my action," Pathan said. "There are a few adjustments that I made - trying to make sure that I don't throw much in terms of delivery stride. And that is actually making me bowl very efficiently with less amount of effort."
It was not long ago that Brett Lee raised concerns about India lacking in the pace department. Lee had also remarked that Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson were the best cricket has got, in terms of quality fast bowlers. Pathan will be part of the same team as Steyn, and is looking forward to learning from the South African.
"At the moment, he is one fast bowler doing well in all formats of the game," Pathan added. "With the amount of effort that he gives in, there is obviously something that we all can learn from. He is always running in hard and always prepared. It is going to be a great experience sharing the new ball with him and sharing the ball whatever the situation is. He is the key when it comes to death bowling."
Photo credit: Irfan Pathan's Twitter page